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'16 and Pregnant': As good for kids as it is addictive to watch

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As MTV’s 16 and Pregnant gets ready to start a new season Oct. 26, a new study (full results here) from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy shows that the gritty reality series does not, as some critics have insisted, “glamorize” teen pregnancy. In fact, in a national poll of teenagers, 82 percent of those who watched the show said it helps them understand how hard teen pregnancy is and how to avoid it, while 76 percent said such shows help them talk to their parents about sex. (About half said they actually did talk to their parents about sex because of something they saw in the media.) A separate study investigated discussion groups about the show at Boys and Girls Clubs of America and found that 40 percent talked about the show with a parent, 63 percent discussed it with a friend, and 37 percent discussed it with a sibling.

It’s harder to remember the good that 16 and Pregnant, along with its big-sister show Teen Mom, are doing when you see the constant gossip-mag stories about their “stars” (or when, perhaps, you see famous teen mom Bristol Palin on Dancing With the Stars). But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the MTV hits continue to hammer home, week after week, the gritty realities of having a kid too young. These numbers prove the glamorization argument doesn’t hold up — despite what other media are doing to muddle the message.